The nordic business diversity index for 2024 has launched. Check it out.

The nordic business diversity index for 2024 has launched. Check it out.

The nordic business diversity index for 2024 has launched. Check it out.

The nordic business diversity index for 2024 has launched. Check it out.

The nordic business diversity index for 2024 has launched. Check it out.

The nordic business diversity index for 2024 has launched. Check it out.

How can organisations support LGBTQ+ employees in the workplace?


Although society has made significant progress in queer acceptance and visibility, navigating the workplace remains a challenging and sometimes risky task for many LGBTQ workers. In 2023, nearly 8% of US adults identified as LGBTQ, the highest percentage ever recorded. This number is even higher among younger generations, with 22% of Gen Z identifying as LGBTQ+. However, ongoing discrimination and the fluid nature of gender and sexuality mean that LGBTQ individuals often face tough decisions about how open they can be about their identities. [1]

Navigating the workplace: challenges for LGBTQ+ workers

The workplace is one of the most delicate environments for LGBTQ individuals to express their identities. Despite legal protections against employment discrimination based on gender and sexual identity in for example the European Union and the US, anti-LGBTQ biases remain prevalent globally. In 2023, 18 % of LGBTQ Europeans reported experiencing workplace discrimination, with significantly higher rates among transgender individuals. For example, 48 % of LGBTQ individuals in Finland often or always hide their identity at work, and 11 % reported facing discrimination both when seeking employment and within the workplace during the past year. [2]

The cost of invisibility vs. openness

LGBTQ individuals face a difficult choice between the psychological burden of remaining invisible versus the potential social and economic costs of being open about their identity. Gender nonconforming individuals cannot often conceal their identities, leading to higher risks of workplace harassment and discrimination impacting individuals’ careers.

Why LGBTQ+ inclusivity matters for organizations

Creating an inclusive workplace for LGBTQ employees is both a matter of social justice and a strategic business decision. A supportive and affirming environment allows LGBTQ employees to thrive, contributing to their physical and emotional well-being. When employees feel safe and valued, they are more likely to be engaged, productive, and committed to their organisation.

Research shows that being open about sexual orientation reduces psychological stress. LGBTQ people who are open about their identities at work experience increased well-being and job satisfaction. For transgender individuals, gender affirmation can be lifesaving, leading to higher engagement and retention rates in the workplace. [3, 4]

Inclusive workplaces benefit from diverse perspectives and innovation. Companies that foster a culture of inclusivity are more likely to attract and retain top talent, leading to better problem-solving, creativity, and overall organisational performance. Moreover, companies perceived as LGBTQ-friendly tend to have a better public image, enhancing their brand reputation and customer loyalty. In a global market where consumers increasingly value corporate social responsibility, businesses that prioritise LGBTQ inclusivity stand out as leaders in equality and human rights. [6,7]

In today's competitive job market, attracting and retaining top talent is crucial. For LGBTQ professionals, finding a workplace that supports their identities is necessary. Companies demonstrating a commitment to diversity and inclusion send a powerful message that they value all employees' unique contributions and are dedicated to fostering an environment where everyone can thrive. This commitment goes beyond policies on paper as it's about creating a culture of openness, respect, and support.

"I always include on my CV that I have been part of some LGBTQ+ related project, just to come out of the closet already when applying for a job. It would be horrible to find myself in an organisation where I could not be myself. The fact that companies show their support for pride and the LGBTQ+ community is really important for me when looking for an employer."

28-year-old, Business Development Manager, Finland 

This proves the importance of visible support in attracting LGBTQ+ talent. Candidates are increasingly evaluating potential employers based on their commitment to inclusivity and their track record of supporting LGBTQ+ employees. For these individuals, the ability to be open about their identities without fear of discrimination is not just a preference but a necessity for their professional and personal well-being. 

Current State of LGBTQ+ Employment Discrimination

Despite advances in legal protections and societal acceptance, discrimination against LGBTQ individuals in the workplace remains widespread. 18 % of LGBTQ Europeans reported experiencing discrimination at work. Among transgender individuals, this rate is even higher, reflecting the additional challenges faced by those whose gender identity does not align with traditional norms. [2]

Discrimination varies significantly by region and country. In Finland, for instance, 48% of LGBTQ individuals report often or always hiding their identity at work due to fear of discrimination and lack of safe spaces for open expression. [2]

Workplace harassment and isolation

Workplace harassment and isolation remain significant issues for LGBTQ employees, particularly for those who defy traditional gender norms. Harassment can range from overt acts of discrimination, such as derogatory comments and exclusion from professional opportunities, to more subtle forms of bias, such as microaggressions and implicit prejudice.

Around half of LGBTQ respondents (57%) reported never facing negative comments or conduct at work due to their identity. However, 34% encountered occasional negative comments, with 8% facing them often. Additionally, 24% reported often experiencing negative attitudes, and 4% said they always faced a hostile work environment. [2]

The impact of workplace harassment and isolation on LGBTQ employees’ mental health and career progression is profound. Persistent harassment and exclusion can lead to increased rates of anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. The stress of navigating a hostile work environment can also result in decreased job satisfaction and engagement, limiting career advancement opportunities. 

The “Brain drain” effect

Systemic discrimination can create "brain drains" in certain fields, particularly those where LGBTQ individuals feel unwelcome or unsafe. For instance, research suggests that the STEM industries have lost up to 120,000 viable candidates in the US alone due to the cumulative effects of anti-LGBTQ bias, leading to a significant loss of talent. [5]

How to enhance inclusivity of transgender and non-binary employees

Transgender and non-binary employees face unique challenges in the workplace, often related to the enforcement of binary gender norms. These employees are more likely to encounter discrimination, harassment, and exclusion.  

The pressure on transgender and non-binary individuals to explain or justify their identities can be exhausting and detrimental to their mental health. Additionally, logistical challenges are often faced, including accessing appropriate washrooms and obtaining recognition for their chosen names and pronouns.

Creating a truly inclusive workplace for transgender and non-binary employees requires targeted policies and practices. Employers should ensure that their non-discrimination policies explicitly include gender identity and expression, provide access to gender-neutral facilities, and offer support for employees undergoing gender transition. Comprehensive diversity training that educates all employees about gender diversity and inclusivity is also essential.  

The impacts of LGBTQ+ openness in the workplace

Coming out at work can be a liberating experience, allowing LGBTQ employees to bring their authentic selves to their professional lives. Openness about one’s sexual orientation or gender identity can lead to increased self-esteem, stronger workplace relationships, and a sense of integrity and honesty. Visible LGBTQ role models can inspire and support other employees struggling with their own identities. For example, a board member of a global corporation shared at our event that when she wrote a blog on the company’s website about Pride Month and revealed her sexual identity, many employees worldwide contacted her to express their gratitude. This was especially significant for those in countries where being open about belonging to sexual minorities cannot be taken for granted.

However, the decision to come out is fraught with challenges. LGBTQ employees must weigh the potential benefits against the risks of discrimination and harassment. The fear of negative repercussions can be a significant barrier, particularly in less inclusive environments. In 2023, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights found that while 52 % of LGBTQ individuals were often or always open about their identities, 54 % still avoided holding hands with same-sex partners in public due to fear of negative reactions. [2]

Being open about one’s LGBTQ identity in the workplace can have substantial psychological and emotional benefits. Authenticity at work reduces the stress associated with hiding one’s identity, leading to improved mental health and job satisfaction. Studies have shown that LGBTQ employees who are open about their identities report lower levels of anxiety and depression and higher levels of overall well-being. [3]

"I have never felt discriminated against during my career, but it can be hard to be open about being part of sexual minorities."

54-year-old, Chief Financial Officer, Finland

Conversely, the pressure to conceal one’s identity can be harmful. LGBTQ individuals who feel compelled to hide their identities often experience higher levels of stress, isolation, and psychological distress. The constant vigilance required to maintain a façade can lead to burnout and decreased productivity. [3] 

Avoiding tokenism in diversity initiatives

While many organisations strive to build diverse teams, the approach to diversity and inclusion must be carefully considered to avoid pitfalls such as tokenism and the perception of quotas. Tokenism occurs when individuals from marginalised groups are included in a workplace primarily to give the appearance of diversity, rather than being valued for their skills and contributions. This can lead to feelings of isolation and undervaluation among LGBTQ employees.

"I had an absurd experience in recruiting. I have a strong background in event organising, coordinating, and promoting. The recruiter had focused on building a diverse team—which is positive. However, half of the interview felt like tiptoeing around my sexuality and so-called 'LGBTQ experience,' whatever that means. In the end, I got a callback that, unfortunately, I was not chosen. But if I wanted, I could volunteer at their events and promote whatever rainbows I have in me. I told them straight up that I was not available as a free-of-charge token gay."

30-year-old, Event Producer, Finland

This particular experience highlights the frustration and resentment that can arise when LGBTQ individuals feel they are being included in a team solely to meet diversity metrics rather than for their actual qualifications and potential contributions. Tokenism not only undermines the confidence and morale of the employees it targets but also fails to create a genuinely inclusive work environment.

What organisations should do to be more attractive to LGBTQ+ employees

As the global landscape evolves, so too does the customer base. Today's consumers are more diverse and socially conscious than ever before, expecting companies to reflect their values and support inclusivity. For organizations to effectively serve this changing demographic, it is crucial to foster a workplace environment that values and supports all employees, particularly those from marginalized communities.

  1. Implement inclusive policies: Develop and enforce policies that explicitly protect LGBTQ+ employees from discrimination and harassment. This includes comprehensive non-discrimination policies, equal benefits for same-sex partners, and support for transgender employees during their transition.

  2. Promote culture of speaking up: Encourage and support all employees including cisgender and heterosexual employees to speak out against discrimination.

  3. Showcase commitment to LGBTQ+ issues: Demonstrate a public commitment to LGBTQ+ rights and inclusion. Participate in and sponsor LGBTQ+ events, celebrate Pride Month, and ensure company marketing and branding reflect this commitment. Ensure that all workplace facilities are inclusive and safe for everyone. This includes providing gender-neutral restrooms, ensuring workplace dress codes are inclusive, and creating policies that respect employees' chosen names and pronouns.

  4. Data-driven workplace analysis: Conduct regular surveys and assessments to gauge the workplace climate for LGBTQ+ employees. Use this feedback to make informed changes and continuously improve the inclusivity of the work environment.

  5. Provide diversity training: Offer regular diversity and inclusion training to all employees. Training should cover LGBTQ+ issues, unconscious bias, and the importance of an inclusive workplace. This helps to educate employees and foster a more understanding and supportive work environment.

  6. Support LGBTQ+ employee resource groups: Encourage the formation of LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Groups and provide them with the resources and support they need to thrive. These groups can offer community, advocacy, and networking opportunities for LGBTQ+ employees.

Creating inclusive workplaces for LGBTQ+ employees is vital for business success. Despite progress, LGBTQ+ workers still face discrimination and the burden of concealing their identities. At Impaktly we have supported multiple organisational transformations and initiated industry leading projects such as the Nordic Business Diversity Index, which highlights leadership diversity in Nordic Nasdaq-listed companies, encouraging inclusive practices. We at Impaktly help organisations to integrate sustainability, offering expertise in regulatory readiness, DEI programs, and more. By fostering diverse and supportive environments, companies enhance innovation, attract top talent, and lead in equality and human rights. Commitment to inclusivity drives meaningful change and empowers all employees to thrive.

About the author:

Aaro Angerpuro is a Sustainability Analyst at Impaktly with personal and professional experience on the effects of LGBTQ+ in business. Aaro was the project lead of the Nordic Business Diversity Index and has an experience in diversity, equity and inclusion transformation projects. 

Transform your organisation with LGBTQ+ inclusivity

At Impaktly, we understand the unique challenges that LGBTQ+ individuals face in the workplace. Let Impaktly help you integrate sustainability and DEI into your business practices with our DEI trainings, programs and DEI strategy services.


About the Research:
Impaktly conducted multiple interviewes of people identifying as part of the LGBTQ+ community on their personal experiences of being a LGBTQ+ person in the worklife these interviewes where conducted in May 2024. These interview quotes in the blog post have been anonymised for the purpose of concealing the identity of the interviewees, since the topic is highly personal for many interviewees.



Gallup, "What Percentage of Americans Are LGBTQ+?", 2022.

European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, “LGBTIQ equality at a crossroads”, 2024.

R.-P. Juster et al., "Study demonstrates health benefits of coming out of the closet," Psychosomatic Medicine, Université de Montréal, 2013.

C. Lelutiu-Weinberger, D. English, and P. Sandanapitchai, "The roles of gender affirmation and discrimination in the resilience of transgender individuals," European Journal of Public Health, 2020.

J. B. Freeman, "We cannot reduce disparities if we refuse to measure them," Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 2020.

McKinsey, "Diversity wins: How inclusion matters", 2020.

P. Parshakov, I. Naidenova, C. Gomez-Gonzalez, et al., "Do LGBTQ-Supportive Corporate Policies Affect Consumer Behavior? Evidence from the Video Game Industry," Journal of Business Ethics, 2023.